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Smaller pregnancy notice decline shows virus impact weakening in Japan

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mainichi– The number of pregnancy notifications submitted to Japan’s local governments from January to April this year stood at 304,425 — a 1.2% decrease from the same period in 2020, but a much gentler decline than the over 10% drop seen in some months last year.

The total includes health ministry data announced on Aug. 27 for February to April, plus earlier released figures for January.

More than 90% of pregnant women report that they are expecting to their local government by the 11th week of pregnancy. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of forms submitted in February 2021 was 70,747 (down 1% from the same month last year), 81,717 in March (up 4.3%) and 73,908 in April (a 2.2% decrease).

In May 2020, when all 47 prefectures in Japan were under the first COVID-19 state of emergency, the figure decreased by 17.6% from the same month in 2019, and by more than 10% in July 2020, but the numbers gradually recovered after that. There were 871,754 pregnancy notification forms submitted in 2020 — a decrease of 4.9% from the previous year.

“Due to the declining population and marriage rate, the number of pregnancy notifications is decreasing every year,” a health ministry official said. “This year, the rate of decline has settled down to its normal pace.”

Takumi Fujinami, senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, who is familiar with the birthrate issue, explained, “The trend to avoid getting pregnant has subsided as the nature of COVID-19 and infection control measures have become clear.”

Meanwhile, Fujinami warned that, long-term, the coronavirus “could accelerate employment instability and the declining marriage rate among young people. Support for youths is urgently needed to stop rapid population decline in the future.”

Fujinami estimates that the number of births this year “to be about 810,000.”

(Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)